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Commissioners express concerns that animal services contract has created rift between Farmington and San Juan County

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AZTEC — San Juan County held a special meeting today to adopt its preliminary budget and issue a declaration of emergency in response to the landslide that cut off Bloomfield’s water supply.

The emergency declaration will help the Bloomfield Irrigation District seek state funding to cover the cost of repairing the ditch that feeds the city’s reservoir. Bloomfield residents have been under water use restrictions since a large portion of the ditch’s bank washed away last week.

The request will now go to Gov. Susana Martinez, who will decide how much of the funds the state will reimburse.

"The ditch had no insurance," said County Executive Office Kim Carpenter. "We’re hoping the governor takes that into account."

The total cost to fix the ditch will likely top $200,000, said Mike Maestas, the county’s emergency management coordinator.

Repairs were originally slated to take two weeks, and Maestas said workers are ahead of schedule.

In other actions, commissioners approved the preliminary budget for the next fiscal year. County financial planners have braced for an estimated  $8 million drop in revenue, with $19 million in spending cuts.

The budget is far from finalized, though, and one area that came under scrutiny at today's meeting was animal services. The county has budgeted $773,000 to maintain its contracts with the both Farmington and Aztec animal shelters.

However, discussion has been underway over contracting solely with the Aztec shelter, which has offered to become the county’s primary service provider for $440,000.

The debate has turned into a sensitive subject, with critics weighing in on the pros and cons of each shelter.

Commissioners today expressed concern over the rift the issue has created between the county and the city of Farmington.

Carpenter said the Aztec shelter told him they will not make the offer again next year due to the animosity it has created. Meanwhile, Carpenter said, Farmington has indicated its shelter will not accept animals from outside city limits if the county does not renew its contract.

With the contract set to expire June 30, commissioners said a decision must be made soon to provide shelters adequate notice.

No matter the choice, officials said they hope this won't affect the relationship between the two governments.

"There are many things we work together on besides animal shelter," said Commissioner Margaret McDaniel.

Brett Berntsen covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606. 

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